Full Committee Markup -- H.R. 4847
Opening Statement By Rep. Bart Gordon
I’d like to welcome everyone to this morning’s markup, the first full Committee markup of 2008.
Today we will consider three bills reported out of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee with unanimous support. These three bills deal with public safety, improving the environment and border security—addressing some of the Nation’s most pressing issues.
H.R. 4847, introduced by the Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee, Representative Mitchell, and co-sponsored by Subcommittee Ranking Member Gingrey, reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration. The U.S. Fire Administration is an important resource for our Nation’s firefighters, providing training, fire safety awareness for the public, data collection, and R&D on fire suppression and prevention research and technology. This important bill will help ensure the continued success of the USFA in its mission to protect lives and property from fire.
We will also consider H.R. 5161, the Green Transportation Infrastructure Research and Technology Transfer Act, introduced by Chairman Wu. This bipartisan bill supports the development and use of green technology to protect our Nation’s water supply through innovative techniques and materials that can be integrated into transportation infrastructure such as roads and parking lots. By filtering stormwater and slowing runoff, green infrastructure mitigates pollution while saving money and energy. This bill builds upon the good work going on at the Department of Transportation to promote green infrastructure’s widespread use.
Finally, H.R. 3916, introduced by Ranking Member Hall, authorizes programs at the Department of Homeland Security to improve the technology used to protect the nation’s borders and ports of entry. Border Patrol agents are responsible for securing nearly seven thousand miles of land borders to the North and South, as well as ninety-five thousand miles of shoreline. While our current corps of border patrol agents is doing a commendable job, their job is daunting. Technology can play a vital role in extending observational capabilities, helping border patrol agents locate suspects and monitor the border more effectively.
Mr. Hall’s bill authorizes important programs to enhance the border patrol’s ability to carry out its mission by supporting short and long term research priorities. It also ensures that new technologies will be useful to border patrol agents by mandating that DHS work to meet cost and training needs of end users when developing these technologies.
I want to commend the T&I Subcommittee for bringing these issues to the Committee’s attention. All three of these bills were developed via a regular order process of identifying the problem, holding a hearing, and then developing legislation.
I strongly support each of these bills, and look forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee to advance this important legislation.
Opening Statement By Rep. Harry Mitchell
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased that the Committee is marking up H.R. 4847 today. This bill, introduced by myself and the ranking Member of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Dr. Phil Gingrey, reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration, or USFA, for four years. USFA’s programs and leadership are a vital resource to the 30,000 local fire departments around the country.
In the 1970’s Congress saw fit to establish the U.S. Fire Administration after learning that over 12,000 Americans died in fires every year and that fires injured considerably more. Through the help and leadership of USFA and others, this number has decreased to an average of 3,000 people a year. Unfortunately, though, this rate is still very high, and still one of the highest in the industrialized world. The $11 billion in annual direct property losses caused by fires is also quite alarmingly. This reauthorization will enable USFA to continue to do good work addressing the Nation’s fire problem and helping the Nation’s firefighters prepare for the growing number of emergencies they must be ready for. From house fires to terrorist events to tornados, firefighters are generally the first on the scene and the last to leave.
The U.S. Fire Administration is an invaluable resource for the thousands of firefighters and emergency personnel around the country. Through training, educational materials, data collection, and other services, USFA provides tools and leadership to the fire service and the communities they serve.
H.R. 4847 reauthorizes this important agency for four years at funding levels consistent for USFA to fully carry out its mission. It also addresses a number of priorities that members of the fire service community raised to the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee at a hearing last fall. H.R. 4847 authorizes USFA to focus its resources on pressing challenges for today’s first responders, like fighting fires in the wildland-urban interface and responding to incidents involving hazardous materials. It directs USFA to improve the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which provides important data on fire events to policy makers at all levels of government.
This bill also addresses a very serious issue for the fire service, and that is firefighter health and safety. As we heard at the hearing last October, every year, over 100 firefighters die in the line of duty. USFA has shown strong leadership in promoting firefighter health and safety, and H.R. 4847 directs the USFA Administrator to continue this leadership by educating local fire departments on national voluntary consensus standards for firefighter health and safety and encouraging communities to adopt these standards.
H.R. 4847 is the product of bipartisan collaboration and significant input from the fire service community. Two weeks ago, this bill was unanimously reported favorably out of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee. USFA is one of the only federal resources for our nation’s firefighters, and I urge my colleagues to support this resource and report H.R. 4847 out of Full Committee favorably.
Opening Statement By Rep. David Wu
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This past May, the Technology and Innovation subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Green Transportation Infrastructure: Challenges to Access and Implementation” that included witnesses from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and representatives of local government and industry.
The witnesses agreed that we have a great opportunity to manage and protect our Nation’s water resources through the use of innovative techniques and technologies that are simultaneously a part of transportation infrastructure and as means for managing and filtering storm water.
Green infrastructure includes materials and design techniques that help mitigate water pollution by managing and filtering runoff.
The EPA witness at the May hearing, Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles, is already making great efforts to promote the use of green infrastructure around the U.S. But he and the other witnesses described a number of barriers to implementing green infrastructure programs; barriers which this bill works to overcome through research and education efforts at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
H.R. 5161, the Green Transportation Infrastructure Research and Technology Transfer Act authorizes research and education programs within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)’s University Transportation Centers.
These new programs at the Department of Transportation will advance the understanding of the benefits of green transportation infrastructure and its impact on the environment, and help policymakers and builders make informed decisions about where and how to include green infrastructure in their transportation systems.
The bill authorizes grants to existing University Transportation Centers for research and development of green infrastructure technologies; technology transfer programs; assessment of the impact of regulations on the adoption of these green technologies at a local level; and education campaigns aimed at local officials and builders.
I will offer a manager’s amendment today that will allow other universities with expertise in green infrastructure to form consortia with University Transportation Centers.
The bill also authorizes FWHA to incorporate green infrastructure design and construction training in the National Highway Institute (NHI) curriculum which is offered to state and local highway contractors and workers.
Green transportation infrastructure is a simple and exciting set of technologies that can help solve substantial pollution problems in our communities, while increasing energy efficiency and potentially decreasing total cost. I look forward to working with members of the committee to pass this bill. I strongly urge every Committee member to support this common sense bill.